Paris Agreement : USA Rejoins – UPSC GS3

Context: Biden has signed an order to restore U.S.A’s participation in the United Nations Paris Agreement on climate change.
USA’s changing stance on climate change talks:
  • The U.S., under George W. Bush, had pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, in 2001.
  • Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. played an active role in climate negotiations. This culminated in the Paris Agreement of 2015 premised on voluntary targets for national emissions cuts.
  • The US had withdrawn from the Paris Climate deal under the Donald Trump administration.
  • The U.S. also stopped its contribution to the UN’s Green Climate Fund, to which it had pledged $3 billion, after transferring an estimated $1 billion.
Trump era policies:
  • Relaxed controls on emissions from fossil fuel-based industries.
  • Diluted standards on air quality and vehicular emissions, hydrofluorocarbon leaking and venting from air-conditioning systems.
  • Restrained individual States such as California from setting higher standards.
  • Revoked protection for natural habitats, including the Arctic sought by the oil and gas industry
Biden regime policies:
  • Biden has formed a high-powered team to lead clean development and has placed climate change among the administration’s priorities.
  • The current administration has promised an enforcement mechanism to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
  • The government would incentivize the shift by a planned federal investment that will total $1.7 trillion over ten years, besides private investments.
  • The plan also emphasizes on creating around 10 million well-paying clean energy jobs with a focus on solar and wind power. The plan envisages active support for carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and a renaissance in green transport.
Expected reduction in emission from the US:
  • The U.S. accounts for 15% of global GHG emissions and is also the biggest legacy contributor of atmosphere-warming gases.
  • Significantly, 10% of U.S. emissions are methane, which has a greater warming effect than CO2, and 81% is carbon dioxide. The rest is made up of nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases.
  • These emissions could be expected to reduce under the new administration.
Impetus for climate action:
  • The Plan for Climate Change and Environmental Justice advocated by the Biden camp during the election campaign promises the U.S’s strong support for multilateralism. This bodes well for the global climate talks.
  • The Plan for Climate Change and Environmental Justice also calls for accountability from other countries, including the top emitter, China, on GHG emissions. Nations that default could face carbon adjustment fees or quotas. This could force all nations to work towards climate action.
  • 2021’s UN climate conference in Glasgow could see the new administration engaging UNFCCC member-nations to raise global ambition.
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